There were heartbreaking scenes in Scarva yesterday as teenage friends halted their summer holidays to leave flowers in memory of Jay Moffett.
Balloons and handwritten notes were attached to a gate close to a lake where the 13-year-old drowned on Monday afternoon.
One message described him as “a ray of sunshine” and added “you will be missed and loved by all”.
Another said: “Jay, so sorry I couldn’t have done more to help you.”
Shocked neighbours recalled a boy who was “a real gentleman”.
Surrounded by rolling green fields and with many banners from the Twelfth celebrations still visible, the unfailingly polite residents of Scarva spoke in unison of their shock at what happened.
In a house in Canal Court, one woman said: “It’s just so sad for the family and everyone concerned including his wee friends, it’s just very tragic.
“It just shows how easy things can happen around water. They certainly didn’t set out for something so tragic to happen.”
Another neighbour was still visibly upset.
“It’s been eerily quiet in the village ever since. I don’t think anyone can get their heads round it,” she said.
“I know the family well. His granda runs the pub and his mum does the nail salon. My two children are a bit older but they would all have gone to the local school together.
“He was a wee gentleman, as everyone will have said. Hindsight is a wonderful thing, but in that heat you can’t blame young ones for trying to cool off without knowing the dangers underneath.”
A man, who had recently moved to Canal Court, said: “I must say, it upset me to hear what the family are going through. Sadly, I didn’t know them, but tragic is really the best word I can use.”
Nearby, the doors of St Matthew’s Parish Church remained open to allow residents some space to pay their respects and maybe take a moment of reflection.
Rev Rodney Magennis said: “We just want to give people a bit of quietness and space to come and process their own thoughts.
“The church is sitting on a height overlooking the whole village, so it’s a nice place to come.
“There’s no rush, so people can come in and sit, pray, speak to God and just ask for some sort of understanding, even though we’ll never know the answers to why this happened.”
Offering a message to young people struggling with the loss, he said: “It’s very hard for them to process such a thing.
“I’m no counsellor, but I would urge them to talk to people instead of bottling it up.
"As the local clergyman, I’m available for anyone to talk to, but they can also turn to a close friend or family member.”
Arriving at the church with two of her grandchildren, local resident Bernie McGrath said: “It’s a big shock for everyone in the village, especially when you’ve your own grandchildren.
"My heart goes out to them.”